Well it’s the most exciting time of the month again! It’s time for November’s income report. I’ve been busy tabulating the results of this month and reflecting on how the month went for both Going Awesome Places and Travel Blog Breakthrough.
Overall, I have to say that it was a successful month with the publishing of the second episode of The Travel Blog Breakthrough Podcast and my very first interview with Mapping Meg. Number wise, the money earned this month was a little sad but I’m optimistic because there are quite a few gigs that I completed that just haven’t been paid yet. In this post, you’ll also find some feedback about a bunch of the ad networks I tried out in November.
Get ready for an information, screenshot, blabber packed post!
REFLECTIONNovember was particularly exciting for me because it was a month where sponsored posts and freelance writing gigs started to take an uphill turn, I officially went “all in” with the podcasts and things are shaping up on the membership side with my 1-on-1 mentoring set up now.
In all honesty, all of these sponsored writing opportunities I had this month were all through various folks contacting me through e-mail and not so much me doing a heck of a lot of outreach.
I can categorize sponsored work into two categories:
- Sponsored Posts – Sponsored work where the post goes onto my own blog
- Sponsored Writing – Sponsored work where the writing goes on another website/platform
Sponsored posts this month have all been of one type – being paid to write my own contact that naturally wraps around the sponsor’s product and links. I have to be thankful for IZEA for discovering me. They gave me a big paid gig this month and it looks like I will have more opportunities in the future. If you haven’t yet, make sure you sign up!
These type of posts I like doing the most because I can put my own voice and style to what the sponsor wants to promote. The beauty of this is that most of the times, readers don’t really realize a post is sponsored until they get to the bottom and see my disclaimer. That I feel like should be the goal as travel bloggers. Taking sponsored posts is absolutely fine but there’s an art to writing and wrapping amazing content around the mandatory links that are required. I think of this as an opportunity to 1) of course make money but 2) leverage the post as a way to provide valuable information to my readers and make it a usable piece that will bring in future readers to my site through search.
These are the other types of sponsored posts that I’ve worked on in case you were wondering:
- Contextual links in blog post (in other words going back to an old post or creating a new one and naturally dropping in a link to the sponsor for a word they want like “best car rental” or “hotels in Florida” etc.)
- Sponsored posts where sponsor writes the content. I am typically not that big a fan of these as they usually come off completely unnatural and out of place. They are almost always poorly written and I end up having to fix it up (i.e. add photos, add a personal story) just so it doesn’t look like a disaster.
Sponsored writing wise, it was really the start of my relationship with CopyPress where they have been contracted out by a few big online travel platforms to create content for them. I had the opportunity to do work for them this month with a whole lot more coming up in December so I’m pretty stoked about that.
How did I find out about them you ask? I was contacted via e-mail and my guess is that I was discovered through participation of one of the Facebook Groups. So unfortunately I don’t have a solid strategy to finding these opportunities but you just have to put yourself out there, whether through the groups, getting yourself on top blogger lists or talking to bloggers in the know (like me)!
Things have certainly evolved since my first 6 minute podcast. Recording my first real interview with Meg was nerve-wracking at first but once we started to get going, it was pretty easy going.
One thing I knew I needed for the podcast was a proper intro and outro and so with the help of my friend Aaron Tsang helped me put something together as an early test. What do you think of it? I would love to get your feedback.
Another thing that really made my life easier was Call Recorder for Skype. I thought I’d have to do a complicated set up of apps to get the recording to work but wow did this program work SO WELL or what. The interface is built right into Skype and all you have to do is hit the record button when you’re ready. Once it’s all done it even has the ability to split the audio into the two sides of the conversation which makes the editing process way easier. For those that were wondering, I’m using GarageBand on my Mac to do my edits which is free.
Open casting call: If anyone’s interested in being on the show just give me a shout!
I’m still at the beginning stages of planning what this will look like and include but the first step for me was to set up a way to have authentic conversations with folks like you!
In case you haven’t seen yet, I’m now offering complimentary consultation for anyone looking to to have a one on one discussion. With the help of Sohelpful.me, there is now a super easy way to book time with me. It was really through the inspiration of my friend Ramli John over at Growth Huddle that gave me the push to get everything set up.
Stay tuned for more details around the TBB Membership and the tentative name “Explosive Breakthrough Plan”.
INCOMEAlright let’s dive strrightaight into the income numbers for November 2014. Note that I’ve converted all numbers into USD currency just to make it easy.
This month I’ve also included my expenses because to truly calculate the profits, I need to subtract these expenses out.
- CopyPress – $300
- Sponsored – $128.73
- Google Adsense – $37.59
- Sovrn – $13.97
- Amazon Associates US – $10.06
- ShareASale – $4.04
- Media.Net – $3.36
- Superlinks – $2.05
Total income: $499.79
Summarized down, this is what income rolls up into:
- Sponsored Writing – $250
- Sponsored Posts – $178.73
- Advertising – $56.97
- Affiliate – $14.10
- Ads – $49.19 (tested a few FB ad variations – more on this in the future)
- Domain – $33.00 (custom short link goaw.pl)
- Podcasting – $33.98 (LibSyn podcast hosting)
Total expenses: $116.14
Total profit: $383.65
THOUGHTS ON INCOME
Wooo not a great month but like I mentioned earlier, got the gears in motion for hopefully bigger payouts a month or two down the line.
The most interesting thing this month was my experiment with a bunch of ad networks that I signed up for. On top of Google AdSense and Sovrn as my main networks, I also added Media.Net (by Yahoo/Bing), Superlinks, Infolinks and Skimlinks (I KNOW…confusing right??)
Based on what I saw this month in terms of performance and fit, here’s what I observed:
- Media.Net is essentially Yahoo/Bing’s answer for Google AdSense and with them touting to be a big player, I thought I’d give them a shot.
- They were easy to sign up for and implement just like Google AdSense.
- Dropped the ads in the sidebar.
- When I first signed up, I got an incredible amount of impressions and RPM (revenue per thousand impressions) BUT over the past month my impressions have steadily declined so my only guess is that there have been less bids for ads on my site. Following up with their reps to see what’s going on.
- I will give them another month or two to try to see if it picks up.
- It seemed like a good idea but wow was it a horrible execution.
- Infolinks completely took over my site and started dropping links EVERYWHERE. I’m not even kidding. My home page was hijacked and with every link, you would hover it and you would see a pop up box appear with the product it was trying to sell.
- I wish I had taken some screenshots of it while I had it on but imagine your blog overrun with text links to the most random things. (i.e. “random” would be turned into a link pointing to Random House)
- After two days, I took it down.
- Don’t even bother with Infolinks.
- After the complete failure of Infolinks, I was hesitant to try another link ad network but I found out through another blogger friend that she was actually using Skimlinks and had success with it so I thought I’d give it another shot.
- Skimlinks was way more reasonable in terms of placing relevant links in the text of my existing blog posts.
- It was a complete contrast to Infolinks. Where Infolinks was on crack, Skimlinks was on some sort of sedative.
- The only link it kept placing were posts where I referenced apps that I recommended. Otherwise, there wasn’t much action.
- I made a whopping $0 from them after a full month trial. *womp womp*.
- Plan on taking this down soon.
- You’d think this was another link skimmer like the two above but this one is another display ad network like Media.Net.
- This one I must’ve found out through another one of those “Top Ad Networks” posts I found online.
- Again, easy to implement as is the case with most display ad networks.
- Result wise, it was lacklustre at best. At best I was making $0.09 a day for a whopping toonie (Canadian $2 coin if you’re reading that with a puzzled face haha).
- Might keep it up for another month but this will most likely be taken down afterwards.
- I had a bit more success with Google AdSense this month because I started testing to see if I could make more by making sure each page had the maximum number of display ads allowed by Google which is 3.
- There really doesn’t seem to be any particular rhyme or reason to when I have good days or bad but it’s basically when somebody decides to click on an ad when I make more than $1 a day.
- In addition to sidebar ads, I’ve added wide landscape and middle of content ads.
- I have also implemented Google AdSense into Travel Blog Breakthrough so hopefully that will pick up down the road.
- I thought it would be helpful to see which ad units were performing better and from this you can see the below the article ads are doing WAY better than anything else. Something to keep in mind is that I got lazy and used the same ad unit for above AND below the article. I’ve broken it out for December so I’ll get a better idea of what REALLY does better.
- The GAP – Single Post ones are the sidebar ads that you see on my blog and these are fully responsive so typically I find that they are skyscraper ads.
- The footer ads look like they’re doing terribly but I’m actually primarily using Sovrn for the footer and filling Google Ads as needed.
- For December, I’m also going to test middle of the page ads and have created a new ad unit for that.
- No surprise, US drives the most revenue but surprised to see Australia up there with high CPCs (Cost Per Click).
- Out of all of them Singapore looks to have the best CPC rates. Love my S’pore readers!
- Sovrn is steadily my #2 when it comes to ads.
- As traffic grows, I feel that this network will eventually overtake AdSense with their CPM (cost per thousand impression) rates…but my impression rates still suck so that might be awhile!
- Their support is awesome and would encourage anyone to
- TIP: Since ads aren’t filled (notice how fill rate is always <100%) all the time with the Sovrn network, if you don’t tell them, you’ll just get a blank box. Most don’t know this but I reached out to my rep and asked him to put in my Google Adsense ads when Sovrn can’t fill the spot. He had no problem with that and had it done for me within a day.
That said, I’m not turned off because honestly I haven’t written specific content for products lately but I’ll get to that soon enough.
Amazon continues to be my biggest driver of affiliate sales though even that number is something I’d love to grow through more product reviews.
As I mentioned up above, sponsored work definitely picked up for me this month despite not showing on the balance sheet. I completed a lot of the writing but haven’t gotten paid yet so hoping for a nice bump either in December or January.
I know I mentioned to you that it’s often hard to hunt for sponsored opportunities BUT that being said, there are quite a few platforms out there that were created for the singular purpose of connecting bloggers with brands. I’ve signed up for all the ones I know about and although there isn’t a waterfall of work coming out from each, there are opportunities that crop up from them so it’s totally worthwhile to get yourself on.
Here’s a list of promising platforms for sponsored work:
- IZEA – Someone from the team reached out to me about a sponsored post opportunity which then led to another opportunity recently so I’ve been really happy with this platform so far. It’s quite mature and they’re very strict about following the FTC guidelines which is great so that means no “do-follow” links and mandatory disclaimers.
- Blogher – Yes you can sign up even if you’re a guy. I got onto their Influencer Network and I’ve been given several opportunities to participate in social media campaigns. I’m loving these Twitter campaigns as the work isn’t as time and effort intensive. If you have a good number of Twitter followers, I’d definitely recommend you sign up.
- Cooperatize – These guys are a startup but promising as I got a gig pretty much right after I signed up.
TRAFFICBelow are a few screenshots taken from Google Analytics. Click on them to see larger versions of them.
Traffic in November stayed pretty steady. I didn’t come up with any viral pieces so you won’t see any spikes this time around. The best I did was on November 19, 2014 on one of the very rare occasions that I’ve pushed above 1,000 sessions. My goal is definitely to hit 1,000 consistently in the new year.
TOP 10 TRAFFIC SOURCES
No real surprises here this month. After Google organic, Twitter is #2 and Facebook at #3.
Some quick highlights:
- ReviveOldPost is effective. I have it set to go out every hour and get great click throughs.
- I get more Facebook traffic through mobile than desktop.
- Yahoo is starting to become in the mix in terms of organic traffic.
- Pinterest is growing as I did a huge re-organization of my boards and pins this month. Hoping to grow this as I know a lot of other bloggers are claiming to get the most traffic out of Pinterest right after Google. Crazy!
- Facebook through desktop definitely has the longest session durations and pages per session. Readers are much more engaged in reading my posts and I guess are really trying hard to procrastinate 😉
- Direct traffic has a way higher bounce rate. I have no clue why!
TOP 10 KEYWORDS
I didn’t do this in my last income report but I thought it’d be a cool chance for you to see the true importance of SEO and driving organic traffic. If you analyze my traffic, you’ll start to see that at least 80% of my views go to a top few number of pages. The reason why these pages do so well is because they’re essentially on the first page of google when you search for these keywords. These are super common keywords for someone doing trip research and as a result, I get a ton a views.
I don’t have a fixed strategy for this (though I really should) but I think a good way to go is to write WOW pieces that you know are going to rank high on Google. Put yourself in the mindset of someone travelling and what they might type into the search box if they’re going to somewhere you want to write about. Without going into incredible depth about this (I’ll have to write a toolkit post about this later), the Google Keyword Planner is great for this as is doing a plain old Google search with the Moz toolbar and seeing what the domain authority (DA) is in the top list and whether you have a chance to reach the top. If you notice that the DA of all the sites on the first page are relatively low (<40 lets say) then you know there’s a great opportunity here to rock it.
WHAT’S NEXTSomehow I always find myself uber busy with a bunch of different things. I think I’m just like that, always looking forward and hunting for better opportunities – a blessing and a curse. Hoping for some downtime soon!
OTHER AD NETWORKS TO TRY
- I’m still trying to get signed up on Yellowhammer.IO but they’ve been dragging their feet.
- A new ad network that focuses on exit intent called Spoutable reached out to me and I’m in the process of setting up some test ads with them.
- SRAX reached out to me and since I’m at it, I might as well do more experimentation. They claim to have awesome rates but so does everyone else. We’ll see!
This is a new adventure I’m embarking on. Udemy‘s a mature online education platform that millions of students have used to learn topics that range from coding to how to do drone photography. I’ve enrolled in a challenge to get my course out by the end of December so I’m going to be working hard the next couple of weeks to put together the video for the course: “Top 10 Tools All Bloggers Need to Know About“.
Sound familiar? For all of you that are subscribed to my newsletter, you already have my ebook. This course takes it to the next level where you’ll get to see all these tools in action and how I use them.
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
INTERESTING PURCHASESIt’s always interesting to see what people end up buying through my Amazon Affiliate links. It starts with travel gear but ends up with so many other different things.
- Important Things with Demetri Martin: Season 1 (This one looks pretty funny actually)
- Ultra Stomp Rocket (Whoa I didn’t know they still made these)
- Favourite Worst Nightmare (We got a vinyl fan here!)
- Oh My God [2 LP] (YES!! Louis C.K. and on vinyl. We have a serious collector of vinyl!)
Wow doing these income reports sure is therapeutic. It really forces me to dig deep and figure out what happened in any single month. Hope you enjoyed reading my blabbering as much as I did.
Here are 5 action items for Going Awesome Places and Travel Blog Breakthrough based on how everything went down in November.
- Clean out some of the ad networks that just aren’t worth continuing.
- Work into the schedule more WOW content pieces to boost traffic and engagement.
- Do a better job at engaging on Facebook now that I know they tend to spend more time on my blog.
- Continue to work at Pinterest. There’s potential here.
- Get my “Top 10 Tools All Bloggers Need to Know About” course up on Udemy
For those of you looking for inspiration, here are a few words of wisdom.
Well I hope you got a lot out of this detailed income report. If you have any questions, don’t shy away from posting it in the comments below. I always respond! I don’t bite either 🙂